Despite years of flirtatious courting, Washington Wizards fans wearing his jersey and even fancy nicknames like “KD2DC,” Kevin Durant didn’t even give his hometown team a visit once he became available on the market. Durant’s loyalty was called into question just over a month ago because the Maryland-raised NBA All-Star was expected to either remain loyal to his Oklahoma City team or return to the East Coast to the arms of waiting fans. Neither happened. Durant fooled everybody in jetting further West to the Golden State Warriors, leaving both Thunder and Wizards fans shell-shocked.
In this July 12, 2016, file photo, NBA basketball player Kevin Durant participates in a fans meeting event in Hong Kong. Even in a jersey with “USA” on the chest, Durant got some boos from the Clippers and Lakers fans at Staples Center for an exhibition blowout of China. Durant claimed he didn’t hear it, and the Americans’ top scorer knows he’ll get nothing but love Tuesday, July 26, when he plays at Oracle Arena for the first time since joining the Golden State Warriors. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)
Many expected that the humble Durant was perhaps too shy or too committed to make such a bold move – leaving a perennial playoff team that was one win away from the NBA Finals to join a unit fresh off back-to-back Finals appearances. The move was even more discomforting after Durant’s former costar, Russell Westbrook, re-upped for another two years to remain with the team that Durant had just jilted. Durant’s departure surely meant that Westbrook would soon be headed out the door as well. Not so fast. Westbrook’s commitment at a time when it would’ve been so easy to leave is admirable—much more appreciated than Durant’s decision to bolt at a time when it appeared he was already in the right uniform.
Prior to Durant’s move, the Thunder was a deep, young and athletic team with an envious roster that perhaps every team not named Cleveland or Golden State would love to have. That unit doesn’t look so rosy anymore after Durant left, but it was plenty enough for Westbrook to extent his stay with the team. The courage that Westbrook exhibited is bound to earn him some more kudos among the Hall of Famers. He already had the backing of Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson and recently the seldom spoken Michael Jordan admitted that: “Thirty years ago, that’s me,” when he measured his early career to the attitude that Westbrook oozes.
Perhaps the reason why Westbrook has been so praised is because he’s largely been associated with one team, a commendable feat that LeBron James and now Durant gave up in search for titles. Durant’s decision won’t destroy his reputation but it does taint it somewhat. His departure would’ve been easier to swallow had Westbrook bolted as well but for Durant’s counterpart to sign an extension in lieu of him leaving, it suddenly turns the off-criticized Westbrook into the favorite while turning the normally humble Durant into a villain.